There's nothing like a sip of pleasantly bitter Campari or a lemony, palate-cleansing sgroppino before an Italian meal. From old standbys like negronis to new twists on Italian classics, we've rounded up our favorite Italian-inspired cocktail recipes.
When it comes to Italian cocktails, it doesn't get much more classic than the negroni. The drink, first created for Count Camillo Negroni in 1919 at Florence's Café Casoni, is simply a mixture of equal parts Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth. The resulting drink is bitter, a little sweet, and a stunning shade of pink.
From this simple base can come a universe of variations. Swapping out the gin for sparkling wine, which first happened at Bar Basso in Milan in 1968, create a negroni sbaliagto, or "bungled negroni." To make a Boulevardier, the gin is replaced with bourbon.
Further modification of the negroni template produces even more drinks. The Contessa the Campari and sweet vermouth for Aperol and dry vermouth, while the amber negroni replaces those ingredients with Braulioa and Lillet.
Another classic Italian cocktail is the bellini, a mix of peach puree and sparkling wine. We like to intensify the peach flavor by adding peach brandy. For an autumnal variation, mix prosecco with a mulled cider syrup and fig vodka.
If you want something refreshing, try sgroppino—a slushy combination of lemon sorbet, vodka, and prosecco that is common in Italy as a palate cleanser, a dessert, or a pre-dinner drink. Whisking the ingredients together creates a chilly, frothy libation.
Find all these drinks and more in our collection of great Italian-inspired cocktails.
This classic cocktail couldn’t be simpler—it’s simply even parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth.
The 19th-century Italian cocktail the Milano-Torino consisted of bitter Campari and Martini sweet vermouth. It is said that American travelers preferred their apéritifs with soda water, so the Milano-Torino with soda became known as the Americano.
The Contessa, a modern creation of John Gertsen, a bartender at Boston’s Drink, replaces two of the Negroni’s three ingredients: Campari is swapped for the lighter and more orangey Aperol and dry vermouth substitutes for sweet. It’s more like the Negroni’s third cousin than a direct descendant.
Large-Batch Negroni Sbagliato
Replacing the Negroni’s traditional sweet vermouth with Lillet and the Campari with Braulio, an herbal Italian amaro, gives this twist on the classic cocktail a rich amber hue and a pleasingly astringent edge.
This bubbly Negroni variation, whose name means “bungled,” was invented at Bar Basso in Milan in 1968 when a bartender accidentally put sparkling wine into the drink instead of gin. It is an excellent choice for a brunch cocktail.
A direct descendant of the Negroni, the Al Capone (a creation of Brooklyn bartender John Bush) blends Campari, whiskey, and vermouth to create the perfect summer whiskey drink. The result is heavy on the whiskey (Bush prefers a fiery rye like Willett), with half as much vermouth (like dark, spicy Carpano Antica).
Found all over Italy, the spritz is a classically Venetian cocktail of prosecco mixed with a bitter aperitif and soda water.
Sgroppino, a slushy combination of lemon sorbet, vodka, and prosecco, is common in Italy as a palate cleanser, a dessert, or a pre-dinner drink.
This refreshing aperitif is a mixture of Aperol, dry vermouth, and triple sec.
The traditional Bellini is made with white peach purée and sparkling wine, but the addition of peach brandy intensifies and sweetens the cocktail. Get the recipe for Bellini »
A luscious take on the bellini, the Rossini swaps strawberries in for white peaches and prosecco in for champagne. Get the recipe for Rossini »
Prosecco marries with richly spiced mulled cider and a splash of fig vodka in this fall drink.